NWA Charleston Wrap-Up

I’m interested in getting finished with this series tonight, so here are some of my final thoughts on the National Weather Association meeting in Charleston, with a few bits and pieces that I left out along the way.

Inside our goodie bag was a mysterious green and white thing. Part of it moved around and the other part was sticky. I looked at it four times and couldn’t figure out what it was. During the Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, Betsy Kling told us what it was. Something to hold your phone on your desk! The part that moved around was the stand, and the sticky part was designed to keep the phone sitting at an angle. It’s one of those cool things when you clean it, the sticky part gets sticky again. That was a funny little “Oh, really?” moment for a lot of us during the awards luncheon on Wednesday.

Sunday’s lunch at Bonefish Grill was spent with Brian Neudorff, Henry Rothenberg, and Garrett Badenbaugh, among others. We talked about football, various TV weather issues, and many other things. That lunch was what drew me out of the doldrums of thinking about Chicago, and also started me into the groove of actually introducing myself to people. Thanks to that lunch, I was way more confident in talking to random strangers that either I didn’t know or I only saw online. And in the end, that’s what made this meeting better than Birmingham from a networking standpoint.

I’ve always been an introvert to some degree. I don’t go out and just talk to people I don’t know very well. I’m not sure why I’m wired that way, but I have to convince myself sometimes to not sit around all by my lonesome and get up and go talk to people. A lot of that left me during the five days I was in Charleston, and I’m happy about that.

Something else that happened is a desire for me to do something from a weather standpoint. I’ve decided that I’m going to get involved in some things if it’s possible. The big thing is talking with the folks from Virginia Tech about April 27th and how I felt about it, but also maybe working with Brian Neudorff in some way with NASCAR’s procedures for lightning and severe weather during their events.

The other thing that I may be helping on is to get the National Weather Association meeting in Charlotte in 2016. I’m not sure how much I can actually help, but having that meeting that close to these mountains would be absolutely fantastic. Brad Panovich and Ricky Matthews are going to be working on that, and hopefully I with them at some point. I’d love to see the meeting happen three hours away from my hometown instead of six!  I’m very much looking forward to helping with that in the next few years as things develop.

For some reason I forgot to mention Dan Goff’s poster. He did an analysis of auto-tweets of severe weather warnings, comparing them to regular person tweets. He used some sort of computer scripts or something that I don’t understand to come up with a lot of his data, and it was all quite interesting. I’ve always thought personally typing every tweet is a must, and that is what I’ll do. At the same time, I will put the same tweet on several social media accounts to get information out to people quick. That’s especially important if I’m on the air for tornado warnings.

I’ve lost which sessions they were, but I enjoyed sitting with Meg Danahey from WCNC in Charlotte during a couple of the sessions after we met Monday night. I walked up to her table during the first of those and grabbed one of the five empty seats beside her and announced that, I’m sitting with her for this session…if it’s okay. It was, and we were able to whisper a halfway decent conversation during a couple of the presentations in both sessions.

So now I’m down to the real end of this thing. I am so thankful to be a part of one of the two major weather annual meetings that happen in this country. It was really fun to meet all sorts of new people in Charleston, and I’ll definitely be keeping in touch with them in the future. I’ve been trying to plan a new forecast vacation, and the recent returns have not gone near as well as the first trip I took. There is a real good chance I’ll either have to stay local to do that, or simply re-think my previous plan. Either way, I’ve met many new folks who may well be able to help with that type of thing, maybe for next summer!

In honor of me referring to meetings like this as the Olympics for weather geeks, I guess it’s time to assemble the medal podium for this particular event. For anyone who was talking with me about the specific details of the week, this may surprise you. And I’m going to have to find a song for Idaho.

Bronze: Jen Henderson, Virginia Tech. She went from someone I didn’t know on October 13 to someone I’m about to go share very deep feelings with when it comes to April 27, 2011. This might end up being my “giving back” moment that might help someone who covers storms on TV or warns for them to cope with these things a little better.

Silver: A tie! (ignoring the fact that there is no bronze medal if there’s a tie for silver) Laura Velasquez, WOOD TV, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Nicole Misencik from WTHR in Indianapolis. I consider this an honorable draw because Nicole impresses the daylights out of me. I mentioned her stress fracture earlier and how it takes some athletes a year to rehab that injury. Nicole only missed 7 weeks of training, and was still able to run 26.2 miles in Chicago the Sunday of the NWA meeting. That’s impressive, I don’t really care if she didn’t step foot in Charleston the whole week. Laura’s contributions are well known, from two years ago saying the right things at the right time to comfort me, all the way to running the same race with Nicole, and then on Wednesday afternoon hitting a golf ball 270 yards. Laura is one of those people who can do almost anything well. While that’s often quite annoying, it’s also an honor for me to call her a friend. And that’s what gets her the silver medal position on the medal ceremony.

Gold: Top spot on the podium for the National Weather Association meeting in 2013 from my standpoint, Brian Neudorff, KMVT TV, Twin Falls, Idaho. I mentioned a little in the Day 5 blog when he left just a little of my appreciation for hanging out with him for a good part of five days. There were a couple nights when we had conversations that went very deep into the morning, anything ranging from me wanting to tell other people things, to general career advice and what seems like a hundred other things. And, lest I forget, the man rescued me from downtown Charleston when my head was hurting so bad I couldn’t think straight enough to get myself a cab. So Brian’s your winner!

I wish I could have something gold and two silvers and a bronze made to send to these four fantastic people, but that’s not gonna happen. I have a few ideas on how to make commemorate that…but I’ll have to think about that for a while. We’ll see what happens!

That’s it! The blog series about the National Weather Association annual meeting in Charleston is now officially closed. Thanks to everyone who organized the meeting and everyone I met and was able to meet again over the course of those five days. It was absolutely a magical experience that I’ll never forget! Here’s hoping I can find a way to get to Salt Lake City in 2014.

With the music from the CBS Olympic coverage in 1994 running through my mind, we now return to regular weather forecast programming  on the Tri-Cities Weather Blog. Goodnight, all!

NWA Charleston Day 5: Short and sweet

Thursday at the NWA meeting ended up being half a day, thanks to the whole government shutdown. Oh, yeah, that ended on Wednesday night, just in time to keep the government from defaulting or some sort of epic, globe crushing crisis would’ve happened. The irony of that idiotic political stunt ending on the last day of our meeting wasn’t lost on anyone in attendance.

Speaking of attendance, Thursday was pretty much check out day. Most of the people I saw in Charleston were off to the airports by Thursday morning, ready to get back to life as normal. That’s one advantage of having my own car, I can pretty much leave whenever I want to. I have to admit, I debated a few times whether or not to stay all the way until noon. Thing is, people were presenting and needed to have people to talk to. So I decided to show up for at least half of the last day’s presentations.

Brian Neudorff was one of those who was attached to a flight and had to leave in the morning. Since I had half my stuff in the car, it only took me one trip after getting ready to have everything in the car and ready to go. Shortly after that, Brian was all packed up and ready to go, so we checked out of room 311.

If I had to pick three stars of the meeting like they do in hockey, Brian is definitely one of the three most influential people of the meeting. Not only did he rescue me from perceived peril on Monday night, but he was instrumental in keeping me focused on the meeting and what I needed to do with it. And along the way we talked a lot over the course of the last five days about several things. Brian was great at calming me down about a lot of things, even on that last day. I’m glad we ended up being roommates for the week!

After seeing Brian off, I double-checked my car and walked over to the meeting room. Compared to the first four days, the place was basically deserted. I was surprised to see more people there than in Birmingham on the final day.  Still, the difference from the earlier days was a big one.

The previous night’s thoughts about re-thanking Laura for the comments from the summer of 2011 after the tornado outbreak went through my mind a lot. During the final session, someone told me she was already on the plane back out of town. That, of course, ended that. Through the remaining three or four presentations, I realized that regardless of the environment where we talked about it, I did do one of the jobs I came to Charleston to do. That was an important realization, and at the end of the day I was happy with that part of the trip to South Carolina.

I did bring that up to Aubrey through Twitter as well, and in so doing completely accomplished the goal of letting them both know how much I appreciate them. Or at least so I thought. I did get a few forecasting tips from Aubrey during the last few presentations, and I’ve put those to use over the past week since I’ve been back home!

Honestly, by Thursday at a meeting like this, you have information overload. With me, I’d gotten myself involved in potentially three big weather related projects (more on the third one in the wrap-up) while doing all the other things and meeting new people. Add to that the Battle at Bristol stuff on Monday, and the Bristol baseball team changing affiliation from the White Sox to the Pirates on Wednesday, my mind was pretty much gone. Lack of sleep didn’t really help either. So some of the last presentations are lost to my mind.

There were two that I wanted to see, first among them Ivetta Abramyan’s talk from her poster that I saw on Wednesday. Having met her just the day before, it was good to get to see her talk about that poster at the end of the first session of the day. I may have to get with her sometime soon to talk about the Arctic Oscillation and cold air outbreaks and in do doing maybe be able to tweak my forecasting a bit in the process.

During the early morning session, I was able to sit with Henry Rothenberg. He’s the Chief Meteorologist at WACH, the FOX affiliate in Columbia. I met him first on Sunday at the Bonefish Grill, which will be brought up in the wrap-up later on. We said hello in passing the rest of the week, and were able to talk a little before he left after one of the presentations later on. We swapped cards and phone numbers and now we’re following each other on Twitter, too.

I went back to the hotel for an opportunity to get my mom some sort of souvenir from the trip in the hotel’s gift shop. I ended up getting a glitter globe (no snow in that part of SC…at least not often!) for her and a shot glass for me. I figured that would be an appropriate reminder of a lot of things that happened on the trip, some that were mentioned here and others that were not! The man at the counter wrapped my purchases up in newspapers, and I went back to the final session.

The last presentation I wanted to see was nearly the last one. Wednesday at the luncheon, I promised Elise that I’d stay until her last presentation on Thursday. After debating on keeping that promise for most of the morning, I decided that I’d hang out until the end of the whole thing. She and her husband Chris and a lot of folks are working on perhaps including lightning data in warning decisions somewhere down the road. It’s an interesting concept if all the pieces come together.

After one more tornado presentation, this one about the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado on May 20th, the meeting adjourned. Someone needs to get an actual gavel to finish things off, but the fist to the podium worked fine, I suppose!

Many of us stuck around for a few minutes to talk, and in so doing I got to meet the new incoming Executive Director of the NWA, Janice Bunting. Dan Goff and Ivetta were talking with her when I arrived, and Janice introduced herself to me during a lull in the conversation. It was great to meet her! We talked for about 15 minutes before drifting off toward the doorway.

I went for one more walk through the hotel lobby to see if anyone was around, and there was nobody there. That sent me to the car, and after tweeting a farewell to Charleston, I started on my way home. I stopped just a little up the road to get some Cookout to take up the road with me.

Most of the ride home was uneventful. I knew there was a cold front coming, so it wasn’t at all surprising that the farther northwest I went, the more clouds there were. When I hit the North Carolina welcome center, I knew I was not far from home. Little did I know that getting through Asheville would take absolutely forever. I got through it, ended up on the right road, and finally got through the mountains into Tennessee.

I did realize during that ride back that in about six hours, there would be some pretty nasty fog in the mountains. If I’d left at shortly after 6pm, which was originally the plan, it would be very dark and very foggy in spots. So it ended up being a VERY good thing for me that the meeting ended at noon!

Time to backtrack a bit. Earlier in the meeting, someone tweeted a picture of Darius Rucker Boulevard…or at least the sign that was in front of the North Charleston Coliseum. Someone dropped in some lyrics while re-tweeting the picture, and Laura Velasquez replied with the words “Wagon Wheel!” That’s a song I really like, for more reasons than just the fact that Johnson City, Tennessee is named in the song! While I was driving home, “Wagon Wheel” played on my iPhone just as I arrived at Erwin, Tennessee, on I-26. It was then that I realized that I’d be going from Darius Rucker Blvd. to Johnson City, and I planned to stop once I got there and tweet that fact. I did that very thing while sitting in the Perkins parking lot. It was good to stop for a bit, but it was also good to make one more connection to Charleston at the end of the whole thing.

Interestingly, I arrived home at almost exactly 7pm…which is about the time I arrive home from work each day. It was fun how the trip came together that way.

After getting settled in, I noticed that Laura sent me two messages on Twitter. I sent her one about nine hours earlier while sitting in Charleston, wondering if she was coming to the last session. It was very nice of her to reply late that evening and let me know that she’d already left, that it was nice to see me, and to have a safe trip home. I responded to her that night the exact thing I tried to find the words to put together for the previous four days. I told Laura that the meeting this week reminded me how much I cherish our friendship not only from a professional standpoint, but also as fellow Cubs fans. She thankfully didn’t think that sounded cheesy, and appreciated what I had to say. She hopes we’ll be able to talk again at next year’s meeting!

The 2014 NWA meeting will be in Salt Lake City. That’s going to be interesting to try to pull off, as it will involve round trip plane tickets as well as the meeting registration and the hotel room. I already kinda promised my stations that I’d not go in 2014, but if I can, I’m going to at least try to see how much I can save up on my own toward going. If I can save it all up myself, all I’ll need is a week off, which is easy to do. If I do get to go, it will produce another first…my first time on an airplane!

That ends the five days of the NWA Annual Meeting in Charleston. There will be one more blog to go, basically tying up some loose ends, some stuff that I realized along the way that I’d forgotten somehow. Click Here for the last one!

NWA Charleston Day 4: Let’s Go Hokies!

Wednesday at the National Weather Association meetings is generally the day of the awards luncheon. Back in Birmingham in 2011, I was ill prepared for that thing from a dress code standpoint. I decided back at home that I’d have one outfit that would be worn specifically on Wednesday for that luncheon. And of course, it would be orange.

Breakfast ended up with Jamie Morrow again, and I ended up having a bagel again. Second verse, same as the first. I can’t help it, bagels are good! We talked about a lot of the same things during the morning. Little did I know that Virginia Tech would be the theme for pretty much the entire day…and a pretty important one by the time my head hit the pillow late that night.

On the way to the first session of the morning, I bumped into Laura Velasquez again. She had a friend with her, so we walked and talked the now familiar journey all the way to the far end of the convention center. Laura had to step away just before we got there for a few minutes, and I kept walking. I turned the final corner and stopped dead in my tracks. I didn’t introduce myself to Laura’s friend yet! So of course, I turned right around and did my gentlemanly duty.

It turns out that Laura’s friend is Jill Reale. She does TV in Utica, New York. I’d seen Jill in a couple places on Facebook, and on the “big board” (Tagboard, to be accurate) during the meetings, so it was really good to meet her. By this point in the meeting, I’d gotten into a groove of asking people what they planned to do professionally, so during the conversation I asked Jill that question. I’ve discovered that it’s interesting to learn what ideas other people have about where they’re going in the future. I figure sooner or later someone’s going to give me a good idea about that!

I walked into the meeting room and looked around for people I knew. Jill and Laura sat down with one empty seat beside Jill, so I sat there, of course asking first to make sure it was okay! Shortly after the beginning, I asked Jill about her Twitter because I couldn’t find her! I don’t normally put Twitter handles on here, but hers is too cool not to. She’s @TheRealeDeal. Very cool! I typed that into my phone and added her, and seconds later she followed me back. Thumbs up!

This happened frequently during the meeting. Heck, some people I never met I added on Twitter and have followed me back. The Tagboard page for the #nwas13 Twitter hashtag was a big, big deal with that. In fact, I had entire conversations with a couple people I followed on Twitter at the meeting before I’d met them in person. Having wi-fi at the meeting caused a lot of fun conversations between people in the same room, as well as people who were out playing hooky in downtown Charleston or at the beach.

Twitter conversations in the same room happened while I was sitting next to Jill, in fact! I talked about Shelby Hays a couple days ago, when we rode in that car to the karaoke on Monday night. I found her Twitter thanks to the Tagboard, and we started talking shortly after that. During the Wednesday morning session, I tweeted Shelby trying to find out where she was so I could say hello. It turns out she was about three rows behind me, so I knew I could find her shortly after the first session.

The keynote address was about the flooding in Colorado after the wildfires out there. Burn scars can exacerbate flooding, and nobody knows that better than anyone who lives in Colorado. There were some chilling videos of that flooding that morning in the keynote, a definite reminder to me right off the bat that flood products from the National Weather Service need not ever be ignored, which is admittedly a problem I’ve had in the past. After seeing those videos and remembering a couple flooding events here in our area, that’s not a problem I’ll have again.

Another Wednesday theme: Jennifer Henderson is everywhere. She’s another one of the Hokies, a Ph.D student at Virginia Tech. She had her own presentation earlier in the meeting, and a poster, too, if I remember correctly. She was also involved in not one, but two more things during the morning session before the luncheon started. The first was a presentation given by someone else talking about how all the members of the weather enterprise can help folks respond properly to severe weather warnings. Given some events over the past three years, we still have a long way to go…and wherever “there” is, there’s reason to believe it’s not a place we’re going to get with everyone in terms of getting people to safety in bad weather. Some people just….won’t…go.

After the first session there was a half an hour break. I told Jill it was great to meet her, and I walked to the back of the section we sat in and found Shelby and her friend Katie standing there. As is customary, I introduced myself to both of them. We had a really good conversation over the next five minutes or so, talking about future plans and things like that. I told both of them that they were light years ahead of where I was at their age, and I told them my story and let them know that I didn’t need to tell them not to do what I did because they’re already not doing that!

Both of them go to Oklahoma, which is one of the schools I wanted to attend straight out of high school for meteorology. Considering some of the people who came out of there when I would’ve been there, that’s definitely something I wish I’d actually done. I graduated high school in 1997, so I would’ve been in my second year when the tornado outbreak happened on May 3, 1999, that included the Moore, Oklahoma, F5 tornado. Heaven only knows where I would’ve been that day. That said, it’s obviously not something I can change, nor would I if I could, honestly. But at the same time, sometimes it’s interesting to think about the timing of things. Shelby and Katie definitely reminded me of those things.

Brian Neudorff had apparently already talked to the two of them, so he walked over to say hello. He handed them his business cards, and of course that reminded me to do the same. I can’t imagine why it seemingly always takes someone else brandishing business cards before I get mine out to give to someone. Anyway, both Brian and I gave the two of them words of encouragement before we all parted ways.

Also during that break I introduced myself to Elise Schultz. She and her husband are researchers at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, and they both are Twitter buddies of mine through conversations we’ve recently had. I enjoyed both of her first two lightning presentations, and was looking forward to the third one on Thursday. It was fantastic to finally meet her after what seems like a long time we’ve tweeted each other!

Session X involved a panel discussion on storm chasing, offering the question, “Do the rewards outweigh the risks?” This, quite honestly, is an obvious topic ever since three storm chasers died this past May near El Reno, Oklahoma, and at least one car was flipped quite possibly a dozen times during that storm. How everyone survived is a miracle.

Mike Bettes was on that panel, he was in said car. I’ll never forget his presentation from earlier where the camera that was laying on the ground caught footage of the car barrel rolling across the field on the other side of the road. That was just stunning. Jen Henderson was also there, and if I recall correctly she’s been on chases with Virginia Tech in the past. That was a fantastic conversation, full of questions about why to chase, where to chase, and when to park the car and watch the storms pass by while you’re far away from them.

From there, we all went immediately next door for the Awards Luncheon. I walked in and didn’t find anyone I knew, except Elise Schultz, who was sitting there across a table with a couple other people. I walked up to a chair a couple places over and asked if I could join them. “Sure,” they said, “as long as you can handle us talking about girl stuff in the process.” Feeling like I could stomach just about any conversation these days, I decided I was okay with that if they were. Indeed, so I settled in. Elise was the only person I knew at the table, and I’d only met her two hours ago.

I was happy to notice that the salad that was already sitting at the table was an actual salad. Two years ago in Birmingham, the “salad” was a lettuce leaf so big you had to cut it with a knife. This year was a normal salad, with ranch dressing! I was happy with that, and grabbed the fork on the left side and got ready to go.

The dinner started with a moment of silence for the chasers who passed away in May, Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, and Carl Young. The first three chasers in the history of chasing to lose their lives doing it. That was a nice touch, then the invocation. I’d forgotten until that moment that there was an invocation in Birmingham’s luncheon as well. Apparently that wasn’t known amongst anyone else at my table, because that was a big topic of conversation.

One thing that stuck out at me was that the people at my table didn’t know that the NWA was a “religious organization.” Thankfully the conversation quickly delved into something different, because it occurred to me that there’s an invocation before every NASCAR race, and I’m fairly certain that’s very far from a religious organization.

The second topic of conversation before the raffle started was the women’s luncheon on Tuesday. Apparently some of the fellas weren’t too happy about that idea. I shook my head at that, and that probably triggered asking every other guy at the table their thoughts. Honestly, I thought it was a great idea. There’s no need to have a dedicated men’s luncheon, because as long as all the women were at theirs, only guys would be left to go out for lunch…which is exactly what I ended up doing. So I told them that I had absolutely no problem with that. Ladies have to talk about their own issues with each other from time to time, why should anyone keep that from happening?

By then I was starting to develop a karaoke-sized headache, probably from thinking too much. Thankfully, the raffle started and I could eat while concentrating only on my tickets I bought on Tuesday. Betsy Kling always does the raffle, and they had lots of cool stuff this year. There were goodie bags from Oklahoma, cool stuff from The Weather Channel, Nick Walker CD’s and sing along books, various funny weather t-shirts, Midland weather radios, and lots of other stuff.

I was close a couple times, but didn’t win anything. Elise Schultz was sitting right beside me, and missed one of the prizes by one number. If she’d bought one more ticket she would’ve won the thing. One person not far from us won three things and kept two of them. And, in the least surprising moment of the day, Laura Velasquez won one of the raffle prizes. I just shook my head and ate more chicken. Some people.

I’ll never in my life remember all the award winners, but I do remember that Florida State’s NWA chapter won the Chapter of the Year award, which is pretty neat. I bet Virginia Tech gets that one in the next few years! Chuck Doswell was awarded a lifetime achievement award, which is definitely well deserved. Another winner was Rick Smith, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Norman, Oklahoma, NWS office. He, like Chuck, was unable to attend, but I made sure to tweet him since we’ve had a few twitter conversations recently.

From there, most of the broadcasters checked out for the afternoon. Some went to play on the beach, others played golf (more on THAT later in the wrapup! I did the same, but only to run back to the hotel to get back into a more comfortable polo shirt. On the way to the elevator, I bumped into Brian, who was talking with Dave Freeman. They were involved in the lightning at NASCAR tracks issue, and Brian chirped at me right before I hit the button for the elevator. So I stopped and joined in. Dave was giving Brian some good ideas on how to either research the topic or to get hold of NASCAR themselves about working out some sort of standard for what to do if lightning is near, a lot like what college football does. At one point I started talking about how I live near Bristol Motor Speedway, so I’d love to help Brian or whoever in the interest of lightning safety. Before I got most of that out, Dave stopped me and let me know that as soon as I opened my mouth he knew exactly where I was from! My Tennessee accent indeed betrays me! We gave Dave our cards, and I pretty much locked myself into helping Brian in any way I can to do whatever needs to be done to help keep fans safe from lightning at race tracks. That was the first of three things that came up during the meeting that I’m hoping to help work with in the next few years.

Dave also told us that his wife was hosting the late afternoon session involving building trust in relationships. I saw that line in the agenda a couple times and you could probably see the cartoon bubble with a big question mark above my head. That seemed kinda random in my mind. While walking back to the meeting room, I debated whether I would go to that or not.

I arrived at the second (third if you were in the student sessions!) social media workshop, which basically covered everything Brad Panovich talked about in the first one. I did pick up a few things in this presentation that I didn’t get the first time around, so that worked okay for me.

After that was the aforementioned 75 minute coffee break and poster session. Brian had apparently thought through the afternoon session and decided he was going. I talked with a few people during the break, and found Dan Goff talking to one of the poster folks, Ivetta Abramyan. She’s from South Carolina as well, and I looked at her poster while we talked in front of it. She was studying the Arctic Oscillation and how it relates to cold air outbreaks in the southeast.

Ivetta explained to us that she was one of those poster session people who was asked to do a presentation after the National Weather Service people were unable to attend. She had a few days to prepare for it before the meeting started, and was just getting the last few slides ready to go when we were talking. That’s pretty impressive, to get a presentation ready to go when you weren’t necessarily expecting to do one. After a few minutes of talking, we started to swap cards, and she realized hers were in her car. So we went to get them and traded cards out in the parking lot.

Tracy Freeman’s session on building trust was fantastic. It’s really hard to explain without having her here to do it, honestly, but what she said and the exercises we did brought to mind various things at work that I needed to work on fixing when I got back. I was able to interact with Brian about a few things during that meeting, and it was fun to see how we took different approaches to say a lot of the same things throughout that two hour session.

That ended Day 4 of sessions, and all that remained was to go get something to eat. I had absolutely no plans, so I walked into the lobby looking for people. I ended up finding Dan Goff again, along with Jamie and was formally introduced to Jen Henderson. It was great to meet her after seeing her in one panel discussion (or was it two?) and giving one presentation earlier during the week.

The conversation that followed was fantastic. We talked about a lot of things that I didn’t quite get because they were Virginia Tech related, but eventually I got started talking about things I do a lot at the stations and the sessions during the previous few days were parts of our conversation as well. Ashley Athey eventually arrived, and with her a reminder somehow that I needed to get a picture of me sometime before I left on Thursday. So I opened up the camera app on my phone, handed it to Dan, and put my arm around Ashley for a picture. James leaned over as well, and we got a pretty good picture. I dropped it on Facebook and had five likes and a couple comments in a matter of seconds. Very cool.

Ashley wasn’t around long, as she and some of the other Tech girls went shopping. So that left the original four of us continuing our chat from earlier. Eventually, we got into April 27, 2011 stuff, specifically how James Spann was affected by the whole thing. That got me into talking about my reactions to what happened here in our area. I told the whole story about radar and power outages, stations off the air and having to take shelter myself. Then came the story about after the event when I learned that people died in the storms here and that was my first severe weather event with fatalities. Not only my first from a professional standpoint as a meteorologist, but the first I can ever remember. I told Jen a lot (but not everything) about my reactions to that, and the two people over the course of the next 18 months that said exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time. She and everyone at the table could tell that it still has an effect on me, because I got a little choked up at times.

Jen told me something that really struck me. I already knew that there was research going on to some degree about how NWS and TV weather people have a type of post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from severe weather events where people die. I have replayed over and over the night the storms happened, as I’m sure have many others. I know people who didn’t talk about it for months, and I was one of those people. What struck me was Jen’s reaction to my friends. She told me that it was likely very important that Laura and Aubrey had the right things to say in the right ways at the right times. Very important, Jen said.

I’ve rolled that around in my head more than once since then, but especially that night. I decided it was really important to make sure those two knew how much it meant to me that they felt the need to reach out to me when I felt so bad at times. It was my hope to do it in person, and that honestly clouded my realization that I’d already said that to Laura earlier. Something just wanted me to say it again in a calmer setting.

Jen told me that she’d be interested in hearing my whole story at some point after the meeting, considering the research that’s going on about these things. I got her card and gave her one of mine, and promised that we’d get together on this some way or the other later on. Thing number 2 I was getting myself involved with, and I considered this a huge one. What if something I say about my story leads to something that will help other forecasters or broadcasters deal with such horrible events? What if one of them is either Laura or Aubrey, even? I decided that in the interest of giving back, I couldn’t not tell Jen my April 27th story. Once these blogs are done, that is next on my list.

The conversation got lighter after that, and eventually we all got hungry. So James, Dan and I went out to grab food. We talked about going to the Tattooed Moose, a place that was on one of the Food Network shows, but settled on an Irish pub downtown. Dan drove his Toyota Corolla that he drove to Birmingham, and the other two of us rode with him.

That was a good meal. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and some fries, while the others had burgers or some such things. We didn’t talk about anything deep, but really were all amazed that the meeting was about to be over already. We also had to chat about baseball, since the postseason was happening while we were there.

We got back to the hotel at a very reasonable hour, and I decided to go up to my room for a little while. Brian and I talked for a bit while I got my things ready to take to the car in the morning. Brian talked me into taking a couple of my bags to the car early so I wouldn’t have to worry about most of it the next morning. I did that, and found some of the Virginia Tech folks on the way back in. They were getting drinks, so after theirs were ready we all went to lounge around for a little while. Other than a trip to the room to get my watch and phone, we were there for quite a while talking, but it was mostly them talking about times the crew went out and did crazy stuff. You know, the typical college life.

I retired at the end of Wednesday in Charleston with a mind full of thoughts about a lot of different things. But at the end of the day (literally), I was thankful for good friends who helped me, a lot of new friends, and new opportunities that came up during the day. At the same time I was sad that the whole thing would end at noon on Thursday, and a little pensive thinking about the drive back home. So again, there’s another evening in a hotel room bed where sleep was difficult. This time it was just because my mind wouldn’t shut off!

There’s one more day of the NWA meeting in Charleston left. I have a 3×5 note card full of things I’ve realized that I forgot over the course of all of this, and I’ll cover all of that and a few other post-meeting items in a wrap-up post later on. One more day to go…click here for Day 5!

NWA Charleston Day 3: Snow Talk!

I’ll start this one with a word to everyone I met on Tuesday and beyond in Charleston. It’s very likely I’m going to forget some of you! It’s not because of anything more than lack of sleep. As I mentioned in one of the previous blogs, it’s hard for me to sleep much when I’m anywhere but at the house. So with that late night on Monday and consecutive late nights, I’ll probably forget someone along the way. Feel free to tweet me if I missed you and I’ll put you in the wrap-up!

The sessions for Day 3 were important for me. Not only was my alma mater Mississippi State presenting during the early morning session, but the entire second session had to do with winter weather and what Sandy did all the way down here. The NWS offices from Blacksburg and Morristown were involved in these presentations, and so were UNC-Asheville (where I should’ve attended straight out of high school, truth be told), and Appalachian State of all places!

Breakfast was spent this day with Jamie Morrow, one of the Virginia Tech folks in attendance. He had a decent breakfast that morning, and I settled for my usual bagel. We talked about the sessions coming up, and he was as interested in the snow session for the late morning as me. Snow is something I haven’t had to forecast all that much in the past few years, so having an entire session on it involving about as close to the Tri-Cities as you’re going to get in a big national meeting like this was a big deal.

Mike Brown is one of my professors at Mississippi State. He’s always involved with chasing every year and doing studies on lightning at major sporting events. This year was a really interesting probability analysis of how many schools have had lightning delays, which ones are more frequent than others, and how long those delays lasted. It was very interesting analysis to be sure. The most frequently delayed school was the University of South Alabama. This is interesting because they are in the Sun Belt, which will be populated by Appalachian State next season. If I remember the schedule planning correctly, USA is coming to ASU in 2014, so it’ll be sometime around the day Marty McFly actually went into the future before the Mountaineers head down to Mobile. Still, I will keep that in mind for my friends up in Boone in a couple years.

It’s not often that you get a 75 minute coffee break at events like this, but thanks to the aforementioned government shutdown, that was a by-product of losing most of the government NOAA/NWS employees. Admittedly, this worked out, because that allowed a lot of time to mingle and look at some of the posters in the other room.

Session VI was the big one. Thank goodness for UNC-Asheville’s Douglas Miller…otherwise the entire session would’ve evaporated into thin air! He ended up giving all four presentations. Simply amazing. The entire thing involved northwest flow snow (NWFS) events. A lot of times when wind patterns come from the northwest into the mountains, there are huge snows. Occasionally, the snow will happen down here in the Tri-Cities as well…and frequently surprise forecasters, dumping more snow than expected!

For whatever reason, one fact surprised me. It turns out that during these NWFS situations, a lot of the moisture comes from Lake Michigan! It travels through Indiana and Kentucky, through East Tennessee and right into the Southern Appalachian mountains. When this happens like the Sandy storm last year, the snow can be measured in feet in the mountains.

During this session, it was announced that there are attempts being made to put up a C-band radar up at Appalachian State. If they can get funding for that, it would be absolutely fantastic. In fact, there is evidence of my overwhelmingly positive reaction on Twitter thanks to Ricky Matthews, who of course thought I was absolutely hilarious. I figured it was an absolutely fantastic thing, because until this meeting, I’ve never seen Appalachian State involved in any weather research, and they don’t have a meteorology program up there. However, the Geography department showed up with a lot of great data and information from Sandy.

That brought to mind a good idea, that I need to get back with my two local NWS offices and talk with them more about snow. Morristown and Blacksburg are both within a couple of hours (as long as I hit the right exit!), so visiting those offices is definitely a priority in the future. It would be great to get thoughts from those folks, and maybe even App State eventually, regarding snow and how to try to predict such a thing. As I’m typing this post, I’ve discovered a treasure trove of information about snow events from clicking around on Appalachian State’s geography department website. There’s a bookmark to add for sure!

It was also fun to see folks who are nowhere near this part of the world having interest in such a thing. In my experience, broadcast meteorologists like to joke around about offices upstream “sending me weather.” I have a running joke with Shane Smith and Brandon Robinson from WYMT in southeast Kentucky that some of the crazy weather things that happen come from there. Of course, that includes snow, after learning what I did on Tuesday of the NWA meeting. So now that joke extends all the way up to my friends in Grand Rapids and Indianapolis…they apparently are the ones I need to keep happy so if I want some snow I can actually get it!

I did get in a bit of a Twitter conversation with the App State folks I know, as I tweeted directly at David Jackson, who calls the sports there on the radio and is one of the Associate Athletic Directors in there. We’ve had a working relationship from a football and basketball standpoint since 2004 with App State sports, and a couple years before that when he was still doing the Inside the Southern Conference show way back in the day. He was able to confirm with me some of the stuff I was talking about, and told me that Geography Department faculty Baker Perry’s wife was once the field hockey coach at App. So that was such an interesting thing, having my first love of weather connect all the way around with something more new, my interest in field hockey thanks to my association with Appalachian State. It was amazing to see those two things connect like that.

Once all of that ended, it was time for lunch. Today was a special event for the ladies, a women’s luncheon near where these sessions were held. Since I was automatically disqualified from that particular event, I ended up having lunch with Ricky Matthews along with Dan Goff and Matt Ernst. I’d never been to a Cookout before, and we were interested in getting a bit away from the convention center, so we took the ride up I-26 for a few exits to the closest Cookout location.

Then came another App State reminder. On the way to Cookout, we ended up passing Charleston Southern. That was a bad thought for me because they only recently destroyed the Mountaineers on the football field. Despite that, though, it was definitely interesting to see their football stadium, which is right next to the road we drove on. They’re definitely a program that is growing, because said stadium is still quite small. It doesn’t appear that since App is moving up to FBS next year that the two schools will play much anymore, and if that’s the case, I’ll enjoy watching CSU move up the ranks in FCS the way App has in the past 10 seasons.

Cookout was fantastic! Not every expensive, and not at all as greasy as Dan told us it might be. I enjoyed that lunch quite a bit. Well, except for the quesadilla…it tasted like they went to Taco Bell and stole it! Since then, I’ve been back there a few times, and their hushpuppies are fantastic.

Meanwhile, the conversation over lunch was a quite interesting one. Matt was the established TV guy in the group, having been in Lubbock market for as long as I can remember. As mentioned in the previous day’s blog, Matt also has a lot of radio stations in his group, too, which is a scenario that I haven’t seen a lot of in my conversations with TV weather people. In fact, that reminds me that I need to chat with him a little more in the future through various social media platforms.

We talked about various weather topics, challenges in forecasting, and non-weather things for the course of lunch. It was a lot like the lunch I had with Matt and one of my meteorology professors at Mississippi State and a few others back in Birmingham two years ago. All of us had different angles to look at all the things we talked about…very much interesting.

Back at the meeting, right off the bat was a fantastic presentation about changing the way warnings go out. Instead of having one warning, then issuing a second one right after it that extends, the thought is to just move the warning with the storm. I haven’t the foggiest idea how someone like me could communicate something like that, with warnings moving every minute in some cases. The first couple presentations showed that changing the polygon every minute or two would give people down the road more time to take shelter, as opposed to the warning overlaps and sometimes having a small amount of time in a warning the way the polygons fall.

While I looked at that, I kept thinking about a couple things. First, with this new warning system, the Emergency Alert System would have to be completely re-worked again. I say that because the system was just re-worked a couple years ago. I’m not sure the current system would be able to keep up with warnings that get re-issued or moved every couple minutes. Secondly, I mentioned earlier. How would these new types of warnings be communicated, not only by television meteorologists, but by those of us who do severe weather coverage on radio? It’s quite interesting to think of how that would change almost everything about how I cover storms live on the air on WHCB or WPWT.

Later in the afternoon, we had a little bit of fun, talking about the mysterious blob that showed up on various radars on June 4th in Huntsville, Alabama. There were all sorts of people who thought it was everything from a UFO to chemtrails to the Redstone Arsenal blowing something up. It turns out, the Arsenal was the answer, but it was just chaff…nothing blowing up. Apparently something was being tested out there, and that got caught on the radar.

Which brings up an interesting point. When it comes to radar, the Doppler doesn’t only hit meteorological objects like rain, snow, sleet or hail. If anything is in the air and gets hit by the radar beam, it will reflect back. This includes birds, bats, bugs, pieces of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2002, random chaff, debris from fires, and lots of other things. So occasionally on a perfectly clear day, you might just see a blob on the radar. The newest installation of dual-pol radar can to some degree determine between whether or not the radar is hitting biological matter or normal precipitation falling from clouds. It’s all very interesting!

The last part of the seventh session was a discussion of atmospheric waves during the awful tornado outbreak on April 27, 2011. This outbreak always hits me funny because tornadoes that day were responsible for the deaths of 13 people in northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia. I’ve lived here for all my life, and I can’t remember the last time one person died in a tornado here, much less 13. So that outbreak is a big deal in my mind. That particular presentation triggered my mind about a lot of things from the months following about people who helped me during those times, and for some reason made me want to talk to certain people and repeat what I said already. That theme would drag along with me the rest of the week.

The final session of Tuesday involved a lot of satellite and remote sensing information…and wasn’t all that well attended by my fellow broadcasters. Not blaming them for anything, as this is a glorified vacation for a lot of folks. I was intrigued to see the latest satellite stuff going on, and it reminded me that very cool things to help forecasters are coming very soon…as long as stupid people in Washington don’t keep cutting funding.

The sessions ended and I had exactly no plans for dinner. I ended up tagging along with Brian Neudorff–something I did too frequently–for the evening, and we simply went down to the lobby and met with some other meteorologists who were talking there. One of them was an absolute legend named James Aydelott, the Chief Meteorologist at Fox 23 in Tulsa. It took a reminder from Brian exactly who he is, but I did already know him online in a couple places.

James is absolutely hilarious. Do you know that absolutely irritating human being who can tell the funniest joke in the world and not laugh at it? Yeah, that’s James. He was absolutely hilarious not only in the lobby, but all the way around for the rest of the evening. I even had a chance to ask him about the equipment he uses to record his radio hits every day. In fact, there are a lot of ideas I need to bounce off of him at some point. Recording the weather at home is something that might make a lot of things better in terms of future forecast updates!

After sitting in the lobby for an hour, we all got hungry. So we all got into cars and drove into downtown Charleston to eat.  We ended up in the same restaurant with Matt Ernst, Samantha Smith, Lauren Fahrenkrug, Laura Velasquez, and about 8 others whose names are lost to me with the passage of time. It was a fun time talking weather and sports and about 85 different things.

From there, we visited a Chicago-themed bar in downtown Charleston. I loved that the framed picture that mentioned all the sports teams actually included both the Chicago Fire MLS team and the women’s team, the Red Stars. Very cool. There were lots of Cubs and White Sox and Blackhawks stuff in there, so while I was drinking three glasses of water (and nothing else!), I had fun looking at all of that stuff.

Most everyone else was involved in the beverages, and the most fun moment of the night was watching the local TV meteorologists. Another thing that must be experienced is watching a bunch of TV weather people critique other weather people while not being completely there, if you get my drift. One of them had the top of his head chopped out of a shot, and the other one had a bad typo, forgetting the T in “partly cloudy.” Hilarity ensued. It was so much fun.

The highlight of that place because of the Chicago stuff was that one of the bartenders is from Blacksburg! I was wearing my Virginia Tech Meteorology hat, and he started talking about how the football team wasn’t doing so well. After he walked off, I realized what hat I was wearing. When you’re a fan of so many different teams, it’s hard to remember what hat you’re wearing sometimes! The bartender came back later and told me he’d come from Blacksburg and would love to get back to the mountains. We had a good chat about these fantastic mountains and how awesome it is to live here!

We got back to the hotel at a reasonable hour, believe it or not! Both Brian and I hydrated ourselves with water for the entire night, so we got to enjoy the ride home with some absolutely hilarious people.

So yeah, day 3 was a very interesting day for me, more meteorologically than in terms of getting to know a lot of people, which is something I did as well. Even today as I’m typing this, I’ve gleaned a lot of great information thanks to the snow session during the day, and toward the end I did get to experience some things that were pretty fun, all things considered.

Two more days remain, Wednesday and Thursday. After those are done, just like in Birmingham, there will be a bonus blog tying up some loose ends, because I’m sure some of the people reading this are going to tweet me and let me know that I forgot something!

Click Here for Day 4!

(UPDATE: I used the word “chat” too much…so I edited the post to remove about half a dozen instances of that word.)

NWA Charleston Day 2: Walking and…singing??

Monday in Charleston didn’t exactly feel like Monday. Yeah, there was a lot to do, but it was the second day of sessions, so it felt more like Tuesday. I had that problem from time to time all week long.

I got myself ready to go and left the hotel room at around 7:30. I figured that I’d get a little breakfast and chat with a couple folks before walking over to the meeting. I wanted to get there when the first remarks started at 7:45, but for some reason I figured setting a goal of getting over there by 8am would be a good idea.

After unloading myself from the elevator, I went around it and started looking around to find anyone I might know. That was unsuccessful amongst the folks sitting and eating. I looked back from whence I came, and Laura Velasquez was standing there. The fact that we met during the first moments of Monday is a complete reversal from Birmingham, and I still find that rather hilarious.

I grabbed breakfast, and scanned the vicinity once again, to see no one else I knew. Laura caught my eye and jerked her head back to get me to follow her, which I did. The first question out of her mouth when I sat down was a simple one. “Is that all you’re gonna eat?”

As large of a person as I am, I change to near bird-eating status when I go out of town on vacation. I don’t know if I want to make sure I’ll feel okay after the meal, try to lessen the chances I might get sick while I’m away, or what makes me that way. That was my situation in Birmingham two years earlier. I ate very little and worked myself crazy volunteering at that meeting. And lost ten pounds in the process. So that explains why I was merely eating a bagel for breakfast. I didn’t even put anything on it. Despite that question, eating a bagel for breakfast was my morning tradition the rest of the week.

I did think that question was funny, and chuckled at it before explaining a lot of the above to Laura. Judging by the look on her face, that seemed to be a halfway decent reason to only eat a bagel for lunch. As it always is these days, we held a conversation while scrolling on the Twitter app on our phones. Multitasking is an important thing these days, but that morning I tried to keep myself from doing that as much as I could.

I may get myself in trouble a few times during this blog, so I might as well start now that I’m about 500 words in. I sat there eating breakfast with Laura for about 15 minutes, and I discovered that I enjoyed watching her facial expressions while we were talking. To be fair to everyone else in the human race, I’ve been doing that a lot lately, from the folks I work with to the lady who works in the meat department at the grocery store. It’s always an interesting study when I do that, and with Laura it was no different. I really hope that doesn’t sound creepy!

Laura mentioned that she didn’t know where the meetings were, and I told her that I’d show her since I was going there, too. It was at that moment that I started to say the stupidest thing in the history of humanity. I got halfway through “I’ll walk over there with you, but it’s a long way over there,” when I stopped myself. I got a quizzical look and decided to go ahead and finish by saying. “Well, I was going to tell you that it’s a long walk over there until I realized that I’m talking to someone who ran a marathon yesterday!”

Thankfully, that got a chuckle, because at that moment I felt terribly stupid. After about two minutes of walking and talking about the Sunday sessions, I heard Laura tell me that it was indeed a pretty long walk, and doing so in heels was making her hurt a little after the 26.2 mile journey yesterday. A little. I kept reminding myself that if I’d tried to run that far I would’ve never made it, and if I’d made it, my entire next day would be spent in bed somewhere. That, my friends, is the difference between fit people and fat people. Slowly but surely, I’m on my way from the latter to the former! (more on that later)

The first thing on the meeting agenda was the Keynote Address, from Bill Read, the former director of the National Hurricane Center. He is a very respected person in meteorology, and his look matches the part. Quite honestly, he looks a lot like the pastor of my church when I was a kid. That automatically made me more interested in his address than just the fact that I was a weather geek at a weather meeting.

I’d left Laura outside to register, and she came in and sat beside me. For about five minutes I thought various thoughts about that particular situation, mostly reminding myself of the intense irony of how we’d talked for a grand total of a minute in Birmingham on a day when I wasn’t feeling very well. Today I was feeling pretty good, and as is normal in a meeting like this, we shared brief thoughts about things regarding all the rest of the morning presentations, along with a dog picture and the official time for her race on Sunday.

The first session included a talk about Sandy (I refuse to call it a superstorm!) in terms of storm surge that happened with a storm that wasn’t all that strong at all. That storm proved for the rest of time and eternity that there’s no such thing as “just” a category 1 hurricane. I’m still amazed when I read about all the damage that happened up there with that storm, and later I was reminded at how much snow that storm caused, all the way down here in Tennessee!

During coffee breaks, people shuffle around, and that happened this time. I ended up sitting with Dan Goff during the second morning session, and it was good to chat with him about various things. Not only did we travel to Birmingham together, we watched an NCAA tournament baseball game in Blacksburg last spring. I don’t get to sit outside and watch clouds much, so it was interesting that day to sit with Dan and get his analysis on the clouds and how they showed what was happening in the atmosphere. Chasers know these things, office dwellers like me generally don’t. At least for now.

One of the late morning presentations showed me something that’s very sad about society. Klout is a social media service that takes score of various things about social media and tells you on a 100 point scale how social media savvy and interactive you are. I think my last score was 47, but I need to revisit that. It turns out that most NWS offices score in the upper 30’s to low 50’s on that, with one office up around 68. Meanwhile, Justin Bieber is a sickening 98. I fail to understand why people would rather follow entertainment figures than people whose stated goal is to keep them safe from bad weather. Oh, well.

That whole session was an exercise in the social science aspects of meteorology and specifically severe weather. That’s a topic that we’ll have in these sessions until the end of time, as we’re always trying to study things like what makes people decide to take shelter in tornado warnings or why people ignore warnings from time to time. Does it take two sources confirming information before you take shelter from storms?

For me, the second morning session was an exercise in two things. I was very active throughout the meeting in tweeting interesting bits from the presentations. But also, an absolutely enormous press conference was happening back in Bristol. The previous Thursday, news slowly leaked out that after 17 long years, Tennessee and Virginia Tech had finally struck a deal on getting a football game played at Bristol Motor Speedway. Nobody official would say anything, except that a “major announcement” would be forthcoming at the track on Monday.

That announcement likely is the biggest press conference in over 20 years for my little town. I was and continue to be very excited about that game. So throughout the morning, my Twitter was a completely confusing mess, alternating between tweets about the NWA meeting and the press conference in my hometown. It was a very exciting morning for sure, as I was interacting with people from Knoxville who were in my hometown for that meeting while I was way down in South Carolina. The Battle at Bristol is coming…September 10, 2016!

During that entire mess, I got a tweet from Ricky Matthews. He’s at UNC-Charlotte on a regular basis, and has interned at a lot of TV stations in their weather departments. The man can also fly airplanes, apparently. So we’re tweeting each other from the same room wanting to know where we’re going for lunch. I didn’t have any plans, so I said I’d be happy to break bread with him. He tweeted Brad Panovich, who was going to Panera Bread.

So after the session ended, I looked for Ricky and found him. That’s not real hard because he’s tall…just don’t try to find him if he turns sideways! Anyway, we caught Brad going out, and he had the one and only Jim Cantore in tow, along with a couple other folks. We asked if we could join them and Brad confirmed that such a thing would be okay.

For the second time this week (I’ll write about the Monday lunch later), I walked to lunch. Panera Bread was a little bit farther of a walk than the Bonefish Grill the day before, but in the same general direction. I walked with Ricky behind almost everyone and really soaked in the conversation.

Once we got there, I ordered a turkey and bacon sandwich…playing it safe, as usual. I was right after Jim, so I got to introduce myself while we waited on our food. He asked me how things were going in Bristol, and I told him about the Battle at Bristol and how they’re going to play a football game at Bristol Motor Speedway in a few years. Jim seemed quite intrigued by that concept. I can only hope that somehow we can get that man in Bristol for that game in 2016…as long as he doesn’t bring bad weather with him, of course!

The rest of lunch was spent with me eating and listening to conversations. Brad ended up talking about the weather balloon he launched and watched fly across the state last year. That was fun, and I still need to see the video on that. Jim and Ricky talked a little about flying things, and I got to throw in a word or two if I knew anything about something that was being said. It was a lot of fun, five of us and Jim Cantore having a conversation over lunch.

During the walk back, I was able to address a couple ongoing concerns I have about things that most weather people get to look at every day that I can’t get in just yet. Everyone in the group who heard it absolutely can’t understand what’s going on, especially considering that in other areas I wouldn’t have any problems. I got some good advice on how to fix the problems, and I’ll have to put them into process over the coming weeks.

We got back just in time for the repeat of the Hurricane Hugo presentation. It wasn’t a repeat for people who weren’t in there on the first day, and it’s not like the presentation went the exact same way this time, either. The slides and videos were the same, but that’s just fine. Hugo is a storm that I vividly remember giving us problems way up here in the mountains, so it’s definitely interesting watching all the old 1989 footage from the Low Country ahead of that awful storm.

After that was the third session, this time on severe weather and tornadoes. The new executive director of the NWA, Janice Bunting, talked about all the communication issues that were involved during the tornadoes in central Oklahoma this past May. It’s not entirely hard to believe that if one tornado hits the right place, power and cell coverage could go out for just about everyone in a large area. That would make us go from connected to seemingly a million miles away from everything in a very short time.

The best title of a presentation of the entire meeting was by Jen Henderson from Virginia Tech. It was called “Mr. Tornado and His Scale: The Social Construction of an Imperfect Standard.” Jen went on to highlight Ted Fujita’s groundbreaking research on storms and his F-scale that was just re-worked not long ago. It left me wondering exactly how he would’ve changed the scale if he was still alive. That was quite the thought-provoking presentation about a man I really wish I could’ve met. In fact, that presentation is something I’ll chat with Jen about later on after some other things we’re working on that I’ll discuss in a later blog.

Between the afternoon session and the panel discussion for the late afternoon, I decided I’d go to the Broadcasters Dinner. It was to be held at Southend Brewery in downtown Charleston. The more I heard about it, the more I liked the idea of going, and I got my name in the hat to go to that during the evening.

After the panel discussion, I went upstairs to change, and went back down to the lobby. It seems everyone in the world went to the lobby between that last session and the icebreaker. Most of the broadcasters that I know of stayed at the lobby the whole time until we went to get on the bus for the Broadcasters Dinner.

I sat at a table with Brad Panovich, Meg Danahey, and a lot of people I didn’t know at the time. I thought it was a fantastic idea to sit there with them and listen to them talk. It was a revolving table, and I ended up chatting with Meg quite a bit during the evening. Meg works with Brad at WCNC in Charlotte, and I’ve known she works there for a long time, but didn’t get to meet her until that afternoon. I definitely enjoyed chatting with her and about ten other people who rotated in and out of the general vicinity during the course of about two hours or so,

Buses were prepared to take all the broadcasters to the dinner, and the three of them were supposed to leave at 7:15. I got over there right in time to get on the second bus, which I did. I arrived at the same time as Ashley Athey and others from Virginia Tech, so I got to talk a bit with her since she was sitting right in front of me. That also ended up being the bus Betsy Kling rode, as well as Samantha Smith, her boyfriend Scott, and Laura Velasquez. Matt Ernst, an old friend from Birmingham’s meeting, came in late and sat beside me.

While we traveled through unknown parts of Charleston, everyone was talking, and it was a rather loud environment…but not by far the loudest of that night! Matt Ernst has a few radio stations to deal with along with his TV station, so we got to talk shop about radio for a little while. I really enjoyed that, chatting about a non-weather thing that I know something about. Matt talked about having a switch in his station that will allow the TV station audio to feed down to all the radio stations. I told him I had to have one of those, since I have to bounce between studios to do severe weather coverage as it is right now.

I eventually turned around and found Laura sitting behind me, so we got to talk a little more. Inexplicably, I chose this moment to ask her various serious professional questions about her future plans and that kind of thing. I’ll leave those comments between us, but I did decide to personally thank her for her help with not only the right words to say to me a couple months after the April 2011 tornado outbreak, but also for encouraging me with help forecasting and being really helpful with advice on becoming less fat, too. I needed her to know that it meant a lot to me, and I think that point got across…even in a loud bus.

Matt and I chatted a bit as we all entered Southend Brewery. Here’s another spot where I may get in some hot water. Yes, I was in an establishment with a bar and where alcoholic drinks were being served. That happened quite a bit during this trip. Rest assured that if you care about this, I have no desire at all to drink anything alcoholic. From an early age I’ve turned that off as a possibility, and I have exactly no temptation to drink. Every time I entered a place like that, I had water to drink. If you don’t believe that, I’ll let you contact the NASCAR Weatherman…because he knows it’s true!

Our dinner was pretty nice, except for the fact that the chairs Matt and I were sitting in were taken by the time we got through the line! No big deal, we just went downstairs to an empty table there. Eventually, we were joined by Ricky Matthews and James Morrow, who comes from Virginia Tech. Later, Bill Murray came in to get a quick bite before getting the evening’s WeatherBrains show set up. Not long after that, Bruce Thomas, the current NWA president arrived. So it can definitely be said that I was blessed to break bread with lots of important people in meteorology along with some friends of mine.

Miles Muzio (from KBAK in Bakersfield, CA) came along with his weather scavenger hunt thing, and Bruce bought one of them and started working on it, as did Matt Ernst. Bruce did one or two, and then passed his sheet off to Ricky, James and me to finish it up. Thankfully, I keep my forecasting links ready to go on my cell phone browser, so we looked at that the whole time.

While we were doing that, we were all informed that the buses were leaving going to the karaoke event elsewhere in downtown. I knew I was going, but I was more interested in hanging out with some of the important people at the dinner and the WeatherBrains show. So I stood around with Matt and chatted with a few people and finished the scavenger hunt sheet with Ricky and James.

One of the more interesting parts of the evening was chatting with Dave Freeman, the chief meteorologist at KSN TV in Wichita, Kansas. Of course, this was interesting because I was one of many who were watching storms go from Oklahoma into Kansas and right into the city of Wichita. Dave sent all of the staff to their shelter at a time when the storm was headed right for them. It was great listening to Dave tell that story while Bill Murray and Bruce Thomas shuffled people in and out of the evening’s Weather Brains hot seat.

Eventually we all realized that we’d been left, as the buses had departed long ago. I had two options, stay there and wait for Miles to take Matt and a couple others to the karaoke, then have him take me to the hotel, or just go to the karaoke. So I decided to do the latter. I’d never been to something like that, so I figured why not. Getting a little out of tune singing might be good for me.

So Miles, Matt, a girl from Oklahoma and a guy she knew all hopped into a pretty small car for the ride to the bar where karaoke was to happen. Miles set his GPS and we were off. I would learn later that the OU girl in the back seat with Matt and the other guy was named Shelby Hays. She was talking on the way down the road about her dog, Mr. Speckles. That made the car ride a quick and interesting one!

The karaoke was at a very small bar in downtown Charleston, the name escapes me at the moment. There were probably 75 broadcasters in there, most of them drinking and having a merry old time. As is my way, I didn’t touch that stuff. I did, however, get to sing along with everyone to a bunch of songs I knew, including “Friends in Low Places,” “September,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and a lot more. My friend Alison, if she reads this, will find absolutely hilarious that I was singing pretty loud with all of those songs and the people singing them.

A note to all broadcast meteorologists: You haven’t lived a full life until you’ve heard Nick Walker sing “Sweet Caroline.” That was an absolutely amazing experience, as was just about any song Betsy Kling got up to sing, even the one that got messed up. Brian Neudorff was there for a little while, but randomly disappeared. As the night went along, I basically hung out with Ricky Matthews and Matt Ernst while watching the clock. At 12:30, the buses would arrive and take us back to the hotel.

I went out there at 12:30. No bus. I stayed out there for 15 minutes enjoying the cooler air and not having very loud music and bad singing blasting into my left ear. We never saw a bus, so we went back in. Matt went to have another drink, and I sat down near the back and watched the proceedings. After half an hour more of that, my head was splitting, so I went back outside only to learn that the buses didn’t run after 1am and we were stuck.

This did not make me happy. I wandered around both inside and out for a little while and tried to figure out what to do. My head was hurting so bad, I didn’t think very clearly and texted Brian and asked him to come get a few of us. That was an incredibly stupid idea, because I could’ve gotten a cab. So a big thanks goes out to Brian for getting me out of there. Ricky ended up tagging along, and we left a bunch of broadcasters down there.

My sisters tell me that I have many of the mannerisms of Peyton Manning. I didn’t believe that until the karaoke night. I was very upset with myself that I didn’t drive myself, that I got stuck in downtown Charleston, that I called Brian out of the hotel room when I could’ve taken a cab, and in part that I left people in there that maybe would’ve appreciated a ride home. In that moment I understood totally what my sisters were talking about…I felt just like Peyton after throwing an interception or something like that.

I expressed a lot of that consternation to Brian throughout the ride home and after we were in the hotel, and he did a good job calming me down on a lot of those things. He even told me that he didn’t mind all that much driving all the way down to get me after he was pretty comfortable in the hotel room. I don’t know how much I really believe that last one, but I told him that I really appreciated that he did that and picked a couple of us up. He’s one of a couple folks that I realized during this meeting that are not only colleagues in meteorology, but friends, too.

At the end of the day, while I was laying in the dark at 4am trying to get a few hours sleep, it dawned on me that one of my goals for the trip was accomplished. I was able to express to Laura, in person, my appreciation for her taking time to talk me through some things on Twitter when I needed a lot of help. That in itself is a major deal, because she’s one of two people who deserved not only a thank you but probably a big trophy for helping dig me out of the doldrums of a severe weather event that included fatalities. I’m a firm believer that people are introduced into your lives for a reason…at least one reason. The fact that I was able to express appreciation toward Laura was a really big deal for me, and that got done!

Over 4100 words later, that ends an absolutely crazy second day in Charleston for me. It’s taken the better part of three hours getting all this typed out!

Click Here for Day 3!